Friday Free-For-All – Clutter/DeClutter

Welcome to another Friday post!

I walked into my office the other day and stopped dead in my tracks. It was a MESS!!!

Photos by Jan Sikes

That’s ridiculous! It was time to do something about it. I stay so busy and go in such a fast run all the time, cleaning and organizing get pushed to the bottom of my list, as is obvious by these photos.

According to Psychology Today, clutter causes stress in part because of its excessive visual stimuli. It also signals to our brains that our work is never done and creates guilt, anxiety, and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Wow! Can I ever relate to the part about my work never being done. It is overwhelming to constantly feel as if you are on a hamster wheel, running but never getting anywhere. And yes, then there’s the guilt about never making enough progress.

So, what exactly constitutes clutter? According to The Very Well Mind, The word clutter refers to items that are strewn about in a disorganized fashion. Well, that fits my situation. Things were strewn about and totally disorganized. They go on to say, In general, clutter is a collection of items that people accumulate in their homes and don’t necessarily use, but hold on to anyway. They also state, someone with perfectionist tendencies is likely to be more stressed out by clutter.

I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. If I ever did, I gave up on it long ago, as nothing is ever perfect. But I do have a touch of OCD. Okay. Maybe more than a touch. I obsess over things until they are finished. That’s a good quality for an author to have, right?

Back to the clutter. I decided it was high time I shut everything down and cleaned up. Heck, I had receipts from four months ago that needed to be processed, and that’s just one tiny part of it.

So, I put on music, which is my favorite thing to do when I clean, and got busy. A couple of hours later things looked totally different.

Ahhhh, much better.

Now I could go to work and be productive!

What about you? Does clutter bother you or are you one of those people who keep everything organized and never let it get cluttered? Let’s talk. Maybe you have some wisdom to share.

#FridayFreeForAll #Crows

Happy Friday!! I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend ahead! Today’s subject may be a little ‘odd’ to some, but oh well, that’s what this Friday slot is all about. Anything goes!

Rick and I had some good friends, Roxy and Judy Gordon, who lived outside of Coleman between Valera and Talpa. (Yes, those are real places – tiny little towns) They were two of the most unique individuals I ever knew. They spent several years living on an Indian Reservation in Montana and practiced the Native American traditions and ways. They built what they called a house-up on top of a hill that overlooked a valley. I looked for a photo to show you and, after an hour of searching gave up. I have it on a video, but I did find this one which would have been taken shortly after they finished building it. (used with permission).

Anyway, on the side of the building, they would paint the year and an animal, for example, ‘2002 The Year of The Snake’ or whatever animal had made its presence known that particular year.

What does any of that have to do with my post? I have been seeing an unusually large number of huge crows where I live.

Photo by Jan Sikes

That isn’t normal here. Occasionally I’ll see one or two, but not these large numbers. So, me being me, I had to consult my Animal Spirit Guides book and see what they signify.

Amazon Purchase Link (if interested)

Here’s what the book had to say about Crows:

You are on the verge of manifesting something you’ve been working toward for a while. Be very watchful over the next few days for any clear omens or signs that will guide and teach you. Expect a big change very soon. You’ve noticed something that’s out of balance or an injustice that hasn’t been addressed, and it’s important to speak up about it. You’re about to get a glimpse into some future event that affects your directly.

Hmmmmm. That’s certainly food for thought. Then I also found this on the internet.

Crows are a powerful symbol of change and transition. The crow is a symbol of metamorphosis or change. More importantly, it alludes to a shift in one’s spiritual or emotional well-being. With their keen senses and ability to adapt, birds are an invaluable source of information for people living in urban environments.


What to make of all the crows? I do believe there is a distinct message for me. I can certainly keep my eyes and ears open. At the very least, the pigeon population decreased when the crows showed up. I count that a win!

Author D.L. Finn embraces the concept of spirit animals in her life and in her books which often includes a bear. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading her books, take a look. This is her latest.

And to top it all off, here is a song by my friend, the late Richard J. Dobson that says a lot about crows. 🙂 Enjoy!

If I could paint on the side of a building, I would name 2022 as The Year of The Crow.

What do you think? Do different animals show up at different times in your life? Can you look back and see distinct meanings in their visits? Let’s chat!

Friday Free-For-All #3

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s the first Friday in September!

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Have you thought about Christmas yet? No? Me either. But I was recently at Costco and was shocked to see Christmas displays already up. It’s not even Halloween yet!

Photo by Jan Sikes 8-18-22

My first response was in my head, but it was a loud, “NO!” Have we let all of our holidays become so commercialized that they are all about money?

We’ve been living the American dream for at least a couple of generations now, and I see the results in the youngsters coming up (my grandchildren in particular). They start making their Christmas lists in July. And it’s not like they don’t have plenty of stuff. Every nook and cranny of their playroom is filled. Something will have to go to make room for new things that will temporarily distract them.

Then there’s the pressure of picking the gift that will wow them. How do you even do that when they aren’t wowed by much? Over-stimulation abounds through media, school, TV, and videos. So, it takes a lot just to get their attention.

I’m always trying to think of something different for each of the five that they might enjoy. One year, I gave them gifts like a trip to the zoo, just one child at a time with me. That was fun, and they looked forward to their special day. But it was also a gift that had to wait for springtime before we could go, so maybe that part was sort of a letdown.

I have no solution to the dilemma. I’d love to hear your suggestions about how you approach gift-giving, especially with young children.

I’ve voted for several years to stop adult gift-giving, but I have one daughter who refuses to go along with that, which forces the rest of us to suck it up and search for something that might be special. I’m sure every family is different. As the children get older, I’d like for us to take the money we’d spend on ‘stuff’ and do a trip together instead. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get them to go along with that idea.

I suppose I should be thankful that some traditions are ingrained in my children. After all, that is also something that appears to be disappearing.

Remember when families sat down every night for dinner together? That seems to be something that is dying out. At one daughter’s house, the children eat their dinner by themselves. Both Mama and Daddy are still working when the children have their dinner. However, my daughter told me they are trying to have family dinners on the weekends, so that’s at least an attempt.

Again, I’d like your thoughts. Are traditions only created to be changed? Or should they be strictly adhered to? Are we losing an entire way of life in the next generations? Or do they have a better idea?

So many questions. So little time. 🙂

Let’s chat!

On a VERY different side note, how many of you reach for one of the reference books from Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi when you are writing? Well, there’s a new one coming!!

There is no purchase link yet, but I definitely will be adding this book to my reference section!

The Conflict Thesaurus, Volume 2:
A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Releases September 6th, 2022)

Friday Free-For-All! #2

Hi, everyone. I hope you’ve had a good week and looking forward to the weekend. It’s time for another Free-For-All!

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I’ve been thinking about things that have influenced me throughout life, and the list is long. Of course, my parents influenced me, as did school. But the one single biggest influence that goes as far back as I can remember is Music!

Growing up in a holy-roller, free-holiness church, music was a big part of every worship service. The piano, guitars, tambourines, accordions, and even a trumpet would stir my soul ten times more than whatever message the preacher brought. Because I could FEEL it.

The strict religion forbade listening to “worldly” music, but I was allowed to attend gospel music concerts. The Stamps Quartet, Blackwood Brothers, and The Happy Goodman Family are some of the most memorable. And, oh my, they could sing. Their harmonies blended like finely tuned instruments. Again, it stirred something deep and primal in me.

Then, as a teenager, I got a transistor radio one year for Christmas. It came with earbuds. Mine looked exactly like this.

Courtesy Canva Photos

The entire world opened up to me! I could get KOMA out of Oklahoma City and Wolfman Jack on XERF out of Del Rio, Texas. And I fell in love!

I fell in love with Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Odis Redding, and all the greats who were creating fabulous music in the sixties. I would imagine myself standing on the hood of a car, singing “Venus” or Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby.” Then the kids at school would accept me, and I’d finally be a part of something. Yes, I know. It was the crazy imagination and dreaming of a lonely teenager. But some part of me saw music as my window to the world.

I begged Mom and Dad for a piano. We were poor, and I know it was selfish of me, as it would be near to impossible for them, but they managed to find one somewhere and brought it home. I loved to pound away on it. They couldn’t afford lessons, so I’d pick out songs by ear. Then, several summers in a row, The Stamps School of Music came to Hobbs and offered free classes. So, my sister and I were allowed to go. I learned to read the notes but never got it down to the point I could look at a piece of music and know instantly what the notes were. I’d have to count the lines and spaces. 🙂

So, time went on, and I turned eighteen. I could legally leave home. I was chomping at the bit to get out and experience the world, to try all of the things that had been forbidden by the church and my parents. And experiencing live music was at the top of that list.

I was too young to get into the nightclubs, but one club in Abilene (where I had moved) had lost their liquor license for serving alcohol to minors, and they had live music on the weekends. That became my second home. And it was where I met Rick Sikes.

I often question myself as to whether or not I would have been as attracted to him if he hadn’t been a regional singing star. Who knows, and it doesn’t matter. He was, and I was. I loved traveling up and down the roads of Texas with him and his band. I finally found a place where I fit, where I was a part of something that I loved.

Rick Sikes And The Rhythm Rebels 1965

As life will often do, it threw me a curve ball, and instead of catching it, I let it knock me down. Rick’s music career and our love affair came to an abrupt end when he was arrested and convicted on two counts of bank robbery.

Now what? I’d still go out and listen to bands every chance I got, but it was never the same. And yet, I never lost my love for music. I fell in love with Jethro Tull and would sit with headphones on and listen to his Aqualung album over and over. I’d do the same with Janis Joplin’s Pearl album.

Fast forward twenty-five years, and I am now married to Rick Sikes. After a long hiatus, he’s started back writing and singing. Only this time, I am along for the full ride as his music partner. I learned to play guitar and loved sitting with him and co-writing songs or playing a new one for him that I’d written. His first public appearance was at Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas for Roxy Gordon’s wake in 2000. From that point, he never stopped until he got too sick to hold a guitar.

Rick and Jan Sikes Kerrville, Tx. 2003
Kerrville, Tx 2003

After Rick passed away and I moved to the Dallas area, I searched for a way to stay plugged into the music world I loved so much. I started volunteering at music festivals in 2010. At first, I was the outsider again. These people had a long history together. But I kept suiting up and showing up and working hard, and now the folks who still do this with me are like an extended family.

Then, when I had the opportunity to go to work for Buddy Magazine, I loved interviewing music artists and helping promote their new records. COVID took the magazine down, but a man has taken it over and trying to revive it.

In the meantime, I attend every live music event I possibly can. Music feeds and satisfies some primal need in me. It has indeed been my biggest influencer in life, and I have a feeling it will be until I am no longer on this earth. This sign hangs on my office door.

A gift from Marlena Smith Burris

Sorry for the long blog post. I normally avoid that, but this one seemed to require it. I’d love to hear from you. What has been the biggest singular influence in your life?

For the final birthday month giveaway, my short story, Brazos Wind is FREE for the next four days! I’d be honored if you’d download it!

Friday Free-For-All! #NewSeries

Hi, everyone. I’m starting a new series that will run through the fall and winter. I’m calling it a Friday Free-For-All.

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I found this definition for a Free-For-all: A disorganized or unrestricted situation or event in which everyone may take part, especially a fight, discussion, or trading market.

I’m not quite sure what a trading market might be. But in other words, pretty much anything goes. I may talk about anything from books and writing to music, family, mysticism, UFOs, life experiences, and all points in between. It’s going to be FUN!

Two things I will not discuss – Religion and politics. Unless it is to say how each has affected my life in some personal way. I will not get into discussions that involve opinions about either. As my seven-year-old granddaughter likes to say with a hand on her hip, “Period.” 🙂

Samantha aka Sammy

I am open to having guests, so if you feel like having a Free-For-All, contact me, and we’ll talk about it.

I’m going to start this by sharing a recent travel debacle. Well, actually, it’s not so recent as it goes all the way back to May when I traveled to Missouri to do research for my current WIP, but it’s been ongoing for months.

I booked hotel reservations through Travelocity. Easy peasy, all done in one place. Wrong!

When my friend Judy and I arrived for our first hotel stay in McAlester, Oklahoma, we quickly discovered what a big mistake I’d made. I walked inside the office of the Oyo Motel with my printed and confirmed reservation in hand.

The man who finally appeared through a back door, somewhat glassy-eyed, gave me a confused look. It took a minute for him to find words. He glanced at the reservation, back up at me, back at the paper, then back at me. You get the idea.

Finally, he said, “Ain’t got no rooms.”

“What? But I’ve already paid for a room, and here’s my confirmation.”

More looking back and forth between me and the paper. Then he repeated. “Ain’t got no rooms.”

I said, “I tried to call you several times today to let you know we’d be a late arrival, but I could never reach you.”

He glanced toward the phone sitting on the desk, then back at me before he said. “Phone’s broke.”

Okay, a man of few words. Or at least the few words he could pull out of his drug-fogged brain.

I won’t bore you with the back-and-forth confused dialogue. The bottom line—we did not have a bed for the night.

When I got back in the car, I immediately called Travelocity and explained the dilemma. They transferred me to a representative who they said could help. After several attempts at trying to understand a woman who spoke rapidly with a thick foreign accent, I finally said, “Please speak more slowly. I cannot understand what you are saying.” I’m sure she cringed at my Texas drawl. Anyway, she hung up on me.

At that point, it was obvious we needed to find a hotel room for the night and deal with the fallout later. When I returned home, I began the attempt to get my money back for the Oyo Motel room that didn’t exist. After months of fighting with Travelocity, I had to reconcile with the fact they were NOT going to refund my money. Thankfully, it was only $46. But it was the principle of being charged for something I didn’t get.

Conclusion: I will NEVER EVER book through Travelocity again and highly recommend to everyone else they don’t either. Maybe this was an isolated incident, but they should have refunded my money, and they didn’t.

How about you? Any travel nightmares you’d like to share?